profiles of zen


Aitken Roshi, Robert

Hawaii-based Zen teacher of the Sanbo Kyodan lineage and writer. Captured on Guam by Japanese and interned as enemy alien for duration of World War II. Preceding interest in Japanese literature, especially haiku poetry, given new impetus by encounter with R.H. Blyth in Prisoner of War camp (1944); also became interested in zazen, though unable to practise. After War, began Zen practice with Nyogen Senzaki in California. 1950: returned to Japan to continue haiku studies; also began practice as a lay student at Ryutakuji under Yamamoto Gempo Roshi and Nakagawa Soen Roshi. Later also studied with Yasutani Hakuun Roshi and Yamada Koun Roshi. 1974: received title roshi from Yamada Koun Roshi. Currently closely associated with the Diamond Sangha, which has zendos on various of the Hawaiian islands as well as in elsewhere in USA and Australia. Wife, Anne Aitken, has been partner in all Zen work. Books including A Zen Wave; Basho’s Haiku & Zen (A study of Basho’s Haiku), Taking the Path of Zen and The Mind of Clover; Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics. Writes regularly in the journal Blind Donkey.

Bodhidharma (Tamo, Ch.) (Daruma, Jap.)

Deeply learned South Indian Buddhist monk who arrived at the Chinese Court in 520 C.E. Known in China as Tamo, and in Japan as Daruma. After his famous interview with Emperor Wu, he meditated for nine years in silence and departed. Bodhidharma was the first Chinese Ch’an (Zen) Patriarch. The father of Zen Buddhism, although it was left to Masters of the eighth century, to consolidate his teaching and technique into a school of Buddhism.

Deshimaru, Roshi, Taisen (1914-82):

Japanese Soto Zen teacher active in Europe. Lived layman’s life for many years; later trained with Kodo Sawaki; received Dharma transmission. 1967: settled in France; became based in Paris. 1970: founded L’Association Zen d’ Europe; dojos and zazen centres established in France, Belgium, West Germany. North America, North Africa and South America. Died Tokyo; cremated Soji-ji temple, Yokohama. Books include, Vrai Zen, Zazen, La Pratique du Zen, Zen-Geist, Zen-Bdsmus und Christentum, Zen im den Kampfkunsten Japans, Zen et Arts Martiaux, La Pratique de la Concentration, Questions a un Maitre Zen, and Le Bol et le Baton. Autobiography: Autobiographic d’un Moine Zen.

Dogen (1200-1253)

The Japanese Founder of Soto Zen, the largest Zen school of Buddhism in Japan. Dogen studied the teachings of the Ts’ao Tung (Ch’an) school for four years before bringing it in 1227 to Japan. He stands alone as the Founder of the Japanese school, and is by far its greatest name. He would have no dealings with the Court, but retired to the mountains where he founded Eiheiji temple, near Fukui. There he taught that moral training (precepts), meditation and wisdom are three facets of the one process. All is Buddha, and we have but to realize what we are.

Glassman Sensei Bernard Tetsugen

Dharma heir of Maezumi Roshi (ZCLA). Born 1939, Brooklyn, New York. Educated Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn and University of California; PhD in applied maths 1970. Worked as administrator and engineer in US space program for 15 years. 1958: began studying Zen. 1963: began zazen practice at Zenshu-ji (Soto) Zen Mission, Los Angeles, guided by Sumi Roshi. 1968: began practising with Maezumi Roshi. 1970: ordained Zen Buddhist monk at ZCLA. Undertook and completed koan study with Maezumi. 1977: received Shisho or Dharma transmission from Maezumi Roshi. At present is Abbot of Zen Community of New York (ZCNY), Zenshin-ji, a Soto Zen temple and training centre in Riverdale, New York. Early 1980s: started Greyston Bakery as ‘livelihood practice’ of ZCNY.

Hakuin (1686-1769)

Hakuin joined the Rinzai Zen sect about 1700. He subsequently became an itinerant monk, during which time he first experienced enlightenment, and returned in 1716 to the Shoin Temple in his native Hara, which remained his base until his death. Hakuin taught that direct knowledge of the truth is available to all, even the lowliest, and that a moral life must accompany religious practice. He utilized koans (unsolvable riddles) to aid meditation and invented the well-known paradox of contemplating the sound of one hand clapping. Hakuin also is known as an artist and calligrapher. Typically using bold brushstrokes and dark ink colours, he sought to evoke in the viewer’s mind his feelings on Zen practice and on the attainment of enlightenment.

Harada Roshi, Sogaku (1870-1961):

Japanese Zen Master. Trained in both Rinzai and Soto traditions, entered Soto temple as novice at age 7. Continued training in Soto temples during primary and high school years. At 20 became monk at Shogen-ji, a Rinzai monastery; after 2½ years of strenuous training, attained kensho. At age 27 enrolled at Soto-sponsored Komazawa University. Continued to do research under well-known scholars for 6 years after graduation. Then trained with Dokutan Roshi of Nanzen-ji, Kyoto for 2 years; later moved into Nanzen-ji as Dokutan’s assistant and applied himself wholeheartedly to zazen and koans; completed all koans and received inka from Dokutan Roshi. At this time, recalled to Komazawa University; spent 12 years teaching there, part of the time as full professor; combined Zen training with academic work. Afterwards became Abbot of Hosshin-ji, a post he retained for 40 years. Until almost age 90, conducted week-long sesshin at Hosshin-ji 6 times a year; also held sesshin elsewhere.’ Nominally of the Soto sect, he welded together the best of Soto and Rinzai and the amalgam was a vibrant Buddhism, which has become one of the great teaching lines in Japan today’; His commentary on Shushogi, a codification of Dogen’s Shobogenzo, is recognized as one of the most penetrating of its kind’ (Philip Kapleau)

Hui-Neng (638-713)

The Sixth Patriarch of Ch’an/Zen Buddhism in China. His words are preserved in a work called the Platform Sutra. Known in Japan as Eno and in Vietnam as Huê-Nãng, he was the sixth and last patriarch of Ch’an Buddhist in China. As leader of the Southern branch of the Ch’an school, he taught the doctrine of Spontaneous Enlightenment, through meditation in which thought, objectivity and all attachment are eliminated.

Hsu Yun, Ch’an Master (1840-1959)

‘Universally regarded as the most outstanding Buddhist of the Chinese Sangha in the modern era’ (Richard Hunn). Dharma successor of all five Ch’an schools; main reformer in Chinese Buddhism revival (1900-50). Born in Chuan Chou, Fukein province. Left home at 19 took Refuge at Yung Chuan Ssu on Mt Ku with Master Chang Kai. In 56 year achieved final awakening at Kao Min Ssu in Yang Chou. Thereafter began revival and teaching work. Founded many schools and hospitals, and died in 120th year.

Kapleau Roshi, Philip

American Zen teacher, born 1912, New Haven, Connecticut. 1946: Chief Court reporter, International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg. 1947: court reporter, International Military Tribunal, Tokyo. 1953-66: trained in various Rinzai and Soto Zen monasteries and temples in Japan, Teachers – Harada Roshi, Yasutani Roshi and Nakagawa Soen Roshi (all qoud vide (see reference elsewhere)). Also spent 1 year in South East Asia living at ashrams in India, Burma and Sri Lanka. Centres established: Rochester, New York (1966 – headquarters); Toronto and Montreal, Canada; Evanston, Illinois, Denver, Colorado; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Madison, Wisconsin, Mexico City; San Jose, Costa Rica, Poland (3 centres); Stockholm, Sweden; West Berlin, Germany. Makes periodic visits to all, conducting sesshin and workshops. Holds two 3-month formal training periods annually at Rochester. Has also for 20 years spoken at colleges, universities, growth centres and symposia, etc. Plans to go into semi-retirement in 1987. Books including Three Pillars of Zen; Zen Dawn in the West; Wheel of Death; To Cherish all Life (The Buddhist Case for Vegetarianism); A Pilgrimage to the Buddhist Temples and Caves of China; The Private Encounter with the Roshi: Its Hazards and Rewards, and the Passage of the Flame; Practical Guidance in Death, Dying, Karma & Rebirth.

Kennett Roshi, Jiyu (Peggy Teresa Nancy Kennett) (1924-1996):

British-born Soto Zen master working in the USA. Born England. Educated Trinity College of Music, London, and Durham University. Early Buddhist studies at London Buddhist Vihara and Buddhist Soceity. 1962: ordained into the Rinzai Zen tradition by Seck Kim Seng, Abbot of Cheng Hoon Teng Temple in Malacca, Malaysia; and went on to study Soto Zen in Japan at Sojo-jo under Chisan Koho Zenji; received transmission from Koho Zenji; installed as Abbess of Unpuku-ji (Mie Perfecture); granted Sanzen license. 1969: to San Francisco on lecture tour. 1970: Zen Mission Society founded; moved to Mount Shasta and became Abbess and Spiritual Director at Shasta Abbey; also instructor at University of California Extension in Berkeley since 1972; sat on the faculty of the California Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and lectured at universities worldwide. Also founded numerous Zen temples and meditations groups through USA, Canada and in England (especially Throssel Hole Priory). Shasta Abbey is Headquarter of her reformed Soto Zen Church and Order of Buddhist Contemplatives (OBC). Books including Zen is Eternal Life (1st issue as Selling Water by the River).

Luk, Charles (Upasaka Lu Ku’an Yu; 1898-1978):

Translator and Writer on Ch’an. Born Canton. Studied with Hutuktu (-Tulku) of Sinkang (a Vajrayana teacher of both Kagyu and Gelug lineages) and Master Hsu Yun (quod vide (see reference elsewhere)), who urged him to translate Chinese Buddhist texts. Dedicated the last 20 years of his life (from 1956) to this cause. Lived in exile in Hong Kong, maintaining a world-wide correspondence.1st visited Europe in 1930s; visited London and met Christmas Humphreys in 1935. Publications including Ch’an & Zen Teachings (3 vols); translations of various sutras (Surangama, Vimalakirti, Diamond, Heart); Secrets of Chinese Meditation; Taoist Yoga; The Transmission of the Mind Outside the Teaching and Practical Buddhism.

Maezumi Roshi, Hakuyu Taizen (1931-95):

Founder of Zen Centre of Los Angeles. Born Otawara, Tochigi perfecture, Japan. Age 11: ordained a Zen monk. Received degrees in Oriental literature and philosophy from Komazawa University. Afterwards studied at Soji-ji. 1955: received Dharma transmission from Hakuun Koruda Roshi. Also received inka from Koryu Osaka Roshi and Hakuun Kuroda Roshi, thus also becoming Dharma successor in two major lines of Rinzai Zen. Holds Sanzen Dojo Shike (Training Master’s credentials) too. 1956: came to Los Angeles as priest of Zenshuji temple. 1967; founded Zen Centre of Los Angeles (ZCLA). 1976: established Kuroda Institute for Transcultural Studies (now called Kuroda Institute for the Study of Buddhism & Human Values). Also founding influence behind Zen Arts Center, Mt Tremper, New York. Books including On Zen Practice (I and II, both edited with Glassman, B.T.), The Hazy Moon of Enlightenment (with Glassman, B.T.) and The Way of Everyday Life.

Nhat Hanh, Thich

Well known Vietnamese monk and poet, born 1926. Ordination and advance religious training in Vietnam. Coined the term “Engaged Buddhism” in his book Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire. What makes Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh distinctive is his extensive arsenal of methods. He recommends meditation, of course, koan study and breath regulation, but he also puts great stress on Theravada methods (mindfulness and the psychology of the Abhidhamma).

Sasaki, Ruth Fuller (1883-1967)

Pioneer of Zen Buddhism in USA. Early 1930s: to Japan; zazen at Nanzenji (Kyoto) for a few months. 1938: settled New York City; became supporter of Sokeian Sasaki’s Buddhist Society of America (later The First Zen Institute of New York, later still of, America). 1994: married Sokei -an Saski (died 1945). 1949: returned to Japan with 3-fold purpose: (1) to find a teacher to take over First Zen Institute; (2) to complete transactions of Rinzairoku and other Zen texts ; (3) to complete her own Zen training. Studied at Daitokuji with Goto Zuigan Roshi. 1956: allowed to build a small zendo and library, Ryosen-an, at Daitoku-ji; this is a branch of First Zen Institute of America; believed that the only authentic way to study Zen was in Japan. 1958: ordained a Zen priest at Daitoku-ji, sponsored by Sesso Oda Roshi. Books including Zen- A Religion; Zen – A Method for Religion Awakening; Zen Dust and The Zen Koan (with Isshu Miura); The Recorded Sayings of Layman P’ang (represent as A Man of Zen, with Iriya Yoshitaka and Dana R Fraser); and Recorded Sayings of Lin- Chi (with Yoshitaka).

Seung Sahn (Soen Sunim – alt. Soen Sa Nim)

Korean Zen Master based in USA. Born 1927, Korea, as Lee Duk An during Japanese occupation. Parents Christian. Joined underground movements. After World War II, studied Western philosophy at Dongguk University; became disenchanted with both politics and scholarship, 1948: became Buddhist monk and embarked upon intensive meditation. At 32 received Dharma Transmission from Zen Master Ko Bong. During Korean War spent 5 years in South Korean Army; afterwards returned to monastic life; became abbot of temple in New Seoul. Then spent 9 years in Japan and Hong Kong, founding temples and teaching. 1972: went to USA; at first worked in a laundry in Providence, Rhode Island; began to gather students from Brown University; Providence Zen Centre developed, now head temple for many sub-centres and affiliated groups both in North America and in Europe (Poland, West Germany, etc.). Books including Only Don’t Know. Dropping Ashes on the Buddha and Boe of Space: Zen Poems.

Suzuki, Daisetz Teitara (1870-1966)

‘The Man Who Brought Zen to the West’ Also wrote many books and articles about Shin Buddhism. Born Kanazawa, Japan. After school, taught English. 1891:entered Tokyo Semmon Gakko (Waseda University.). 1891: began Zen training under Imagita Kosen Roshi and Soyen Shaku at Engaku-ji (Kamakura). 1897: to USA (LaSalle, III.) to work for Open Court Publishing Co. 1909: returned to Japan; became lecturer at Peers’ School and at Tokyo Imperial University. 1911: married Beatrice Erskine Lane. 1912: visited England at invitation of Swedenborg Society. 1921: began publication of The Eastern Buddhist; also moved to Kyoto to Chair of Buddhist Philosophy at Otani University. 1936: attended World Congress of Faiths in London and lectured on Zen and Japanese culture at various British and American universities. 1946: founded Matsugaoka Bunko (‘Pine Hill Library’) in Kamakura, near. Engaku-ji; began publication of The Cultural East.1947: lectured on Buddhism to Emperor of Japan. 1950-58: lectured and toured extensively in the West, notably in USA; held posts at Columbia University. Books including Essays in Zen Buddhisms (3 series), Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra, Introduction to Zen Buddhism, Manual of Zen Buddhism, Japanese Buddhism, The Essence of Buddhism, The Zen Doctrine of No-Mind, Living by Zen, A Miscellany on the Shin Teaching of Buddhism, Studies in Zen, Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist, Zen & Japanese Buddhism, Zen and Japanese Culture, Zen Buddhism & Psychoanalysis, The Field of Zen, Shin Buddhism, What Is Zen? Sengai the Zen Master and Collected Writings on Shin Buddhism. Translations include The Lankavatara Sutra, The Awakening of Faith (Asvaghaosha), Sermons of a Buddhist Abbot (Soyen Shaku), The Life of Shinran Shomin and The Kyogyoshinsho. Biography by A. Irwin Switzer 111. Memior: Suzuki Remembered, edited. Masao Abe.

Suzuki Roshi, Shunryu (1904-71)

Eminent teacher of Soto Zen in USA: founder of San Francisco Zen Center. Born Japan; father a Zen Master; at early age began Zen training under Gyokujun Soon-daiosho, a Soto Master, and other teachers. Recognized as a Zen Master c 30; became responsible for many temples and a monastery. During World War II led a pacifist group. 1959: to USA intending only short visit but settled in San Francisco area, where a group formed. 1962: San Francisco Zen Centre formally inaugurated; this grew to occupy a number of Californian locations, including Zen Mountain Center at Tassajara Springs (1st Zen monastery in USA with facilities for long-term practice, established 1967). 1971: installed Richard Baker as Dharma Heir. Author of the classic Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

Note on Titles, etc:

Daiosho: (Jap.) lit. ‘great priest’.
Dharma Heir: disciple to whom a Master has given Dharma Transmission.
Dharma Transmission: the transmission of Truth or the One Mind from master to disciple heart to heart (i.e. beyond words and concepts).
Dojo: (Jap.) training hall.
Inka: (Jap.) lit.’seal’ signifies that the Master has formally certified the disciple’s understanding.
Kensho: (Jap.) first glimpse of one’s true nature.
Osho: (Jap.) priest.
Roshi; (Jap.) lit. ‘old teacher’; signifies a Zen Master.
Sesshin: (Jap.) intensive retreat.
Sensei: (Jap.) teacher.
Sunim: (Korean) formal title for Korean monks and nuns.
Transmission: see Dharma Transmission.
Zendo: (Jap.) Zen training hall.